CLINTON — The University of Iowa’s frontcourt took a small hit this week.
Nothing too big, nothing too major, nothing that should impact the Hawkeyes next season.
And besides, if there’s any team in all of college basketball that has an extreme amount of depth at the power forward and center positions right now, it’s Iowa.
So Hawkeyes head coach Fran McCaffery wasn’t at all concerned by the fact that Cordell Pemsl underwent sports hernia surgery on Tuesday, especially since the 6-foot-8 sophomore-to-be came through the operation very well.
“It went well. We’re thrilled for him,’’ McCaffery said prior to a Hawkeye Caravan event Wednesday night at Wild Rose Resort in Clinton. “He should be back in no time.’’
McCaffery said Pemsl should be able to start doing some conditioning work “fairly soon’’ and is likely to be back at full strength in less than two months. He will miss playing in the Prime Time League this summer, but is expected to return in time to play on the Hawkeyes’ overseas trip to Germany in August.
Even if Pemsl were to be sidelined longer, the Hawkeyes have the depth to handle it.
It’s probably the nicest problem McCaffery faces as he prepares for his eighth season as the Hawkeyes’ head coach.
The Hawkeyes return everyone except All-Big Ten guard Peter Jok and forward Dale Jones, who played only 15 minutes last season.
Forward-center Tyler Cook, who averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game and made the Big Ten’s all-freshman team, is back. So is Pemsl, who started 14 games, averaged 8.9 points 5.0 rebounds and shot a school-record 61.5 percent from the field. So is Ahmad Wagner, who started 18 games. So are senior Dom Uhl and Ryan Kriener, who saw more and more playing time as the season progressed.
Add to that a pair of 6-foot-11 incoming freshmen, Luka Garza and Jack Nunge, and you have an extremely crowded frontcourt.
McCaffery is confident he’ll find a way to give everyone playing time.
“We’ve got some versatility in the frontcourt position,’’ he said. “We’ve got some guys that can play 3, 4 and 5. We’ve got some shooters, we’ve got shot-blocking, we’ve got some athletic power, we’ve got some skill.
“So we obviously can come down and throw the ball inside and get to the free throw line and score baskets, and that changes everything. It improves your fast break. It improves your motion game. It gives you opportunities to execute with set plays and go in different directions and not allow teams to focus on one guy.’’
Some of those players who have primarily been power forwards and centers in the past — especially Uhl and Wagner — could log some minutes at the small forward position next season.
Meanwhile, Garza and Nunge bring an added dimension in that they will help the Hawkeyes do a better job of protecting the rim. Nicholas Baer, who can play power forward and center but figures to play mostly on the perimeter next season, led the team with 43 blocked shots and Pemsl had 24 but no one else on the team had more than 14 blocks.
“They’re both shot-blockers,’’ McCaffery said of the freshmen. “Garza’s got a 7-4 wingspan, Nunge’s is well over 7 feet. Both of them were really effective shot-blockers in high school.’’
McCaffery said there’s no big secret what his team needs to work on between now and the start of next season.
“We just need to be better defensively,’’ he said. “Offensively, we proved that we can score the ball against anybody. Defensively against the top tier teams, we just need to be a little better.’’